Tuesday 16 January 2018

Northern Ireland's Nigel Eccles grew up on a dairy farm in Tyrone but has found success where the internet meets fantasy sports teams, with a site called Fanduel. The business emerged from an ability to predict the outcome of the 2008 US Presidential election, when former McKinsey consultant Eccles and his wife Lesley set up a news prediction venture called Hubdub to forecast the election result, state by state.

Though the predictive tech worked, financially it didn't. But they saw an opportunity to apply it to sports and from there Fanduel was born in 2009. The business enables fans to make money from forecasting US sports, with fantasy football and baseball proving key markets. The business won backing of 350m by the NBA, Google Capital, KKR and Time Warner, and last November a merger with rival DraftKings was announced. However, the pair won't find out until later this year if regulators will allow the merger to go ahead.

Fanduel's turnover initially rocketed — it took in $3bn in player entry fees in 2015 — and at their peak each site was valued at 1bn. However, the rapid growth also attracted the attention of lawmakers and regulators concerned about gambling, though states also see it as a source of taxes and licensing fees.

Valuations have cooled significantly in the past year, with some reports suggesting investors have written down their investments by up to 60pc.

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